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Press release | 17/11/2021
United by Artificial Intelligence: Bocconi, Bicocca, Politecnico and Statale together to turn Milano into an EU Hub for AI

United by Artificial Intelligence: Bocconi, Bicocca, Politecnico and Statale together to turn Milano into an EU Hub for AI


The Milan-based universities of Bocconi, Statale, Bicocca and Politecnico have joined forces to create a center of excellence for research and training in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The four universities have in fact jointly become a new unit of ELLIS, the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems. Today the initiative was presented at the Municipality of Milan in presence of Mayor Beppe Sala by Bocconi Rector Gianmario Verona, the Deputy Rector of Statale Maria Pia Abbracchio, Bicocca Rector Giovanna Iannantuoni, and the Rector of Politecnico Ferruccio Resta.

Founded in 2018, ELLIS is an association that brings together the best scientists and academics in artificial intelligence with the aim of promoting scientific development on the subject in Europe. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are in fact the fulcrum of a technological and social revolution that is changing every aspect of society.  Consequently, it is on these issues that the EU is staking its future, as it faces the need to restore competitiveness in the face of industry’s giants, the United States and China. The same is true for Italy, where the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience (PNRR, the Italian acronym) indicates the development of AI one of the key points for the relaunch of the country’s economy.

The new ELLIS Unit has the mission of turning Milano into one of the main EU research hubs for AI and machine learning. There will be four lines of research: interactive machine learning, which studies the interaction of an algorithm with the environment; neural networks and deep learning; health and computational biology, which applies AI to medicine; and the use of AI for the analysis and processing of natural language.

"Today economic sciences and social sciences are called to engage in a mutual exchange with artificial intelligence, so to be able to analyze increasingly complex scenarios and produce knowledge that has a positive impact on society," explains the Rector of Bocconi University, Gianmario Verona. "The multidisciplinary approach and collaboration between the Milanese universities therefore becomes fundamental for the development of knowledge in this area and for Milan assuming a leading role in the EU. If it is true that important stimuli for the development of economic sciences come from AI, these in turn give a strong impetus to the technological development of AI and machine learning. At Bocconi University this dialogue is at the center of specific initiatives both on the educational front, with the new Bachelor in Mathematical and Computing Sciences for Artificial Intelligence, and on the research front, with the study of deep learning algorithms, natural language processing, the connection between machine learning and computational neuroscience, algorithmic game theory, the use of cryptography in automatic learning processes, and the ethical aspects of AI and machine learning."

“Milan once again is investing in the future”, says the Rector of Bicocca University, Giovanna Iannantuoni. “The evolution of Artificial Intelligence has made it possible to define effective solutions to complex problems in various fields, from marketing to medicine. Creating a center of excellence for research and training in artificial intelligence and machine learning means being ready to accept the challenge of scientific development at the European level. Bicocca has already promoted joint initiatives with other Lombard universities on the subject of AI; its Bachelor’s program in Artificial Intelligence is a course of study carried out together with the State University of Milan and the University of Pavia, with which two Master's programs in AI are also being planned. Regarding research in AI, Bicocca is active on various topics, such as the analysis and understanding of natural language, computational biology and medicine, image analysis, and the definition of innovative approaches related to neuro-symbolic AI."

"As a public university that encompasses all subjects, from the scientific and medical, to legal and the humanities, Statale finds itself in a privileged position to deal with the challenge of artificial intelligence, which by definition is transversal to all disciplines. We started with the foundation, in 2019, of the Joint Lab for Embodied Artificial Intelligence at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, and are continuing in 2021 with the opening, together with two other Lombard universities, of the first degree in Artificial Intelligence," says Maria Pia Abbracchio, Deputy Rector with responsibility for Research and Innovation at Statale. "Our university is now ready to face the challenge of ELLIS, and is proud that Professor Nicolò Cesa Bianchi will direct the unit for the first year of its existence; we are happy to be at the forefront and take full advantage of the great wealth generated by the analysis of big data and their application to the human health and that of the environment."

"The centrality of issues related to artificial intelligence and machine learning, the uses and repercussions on the economic and social front give technical-scientific universities a great responsibility", comments the Rector of the Milan Polytechnic, Ferruccio Resta. "Technological development is anything but neutral: it is a complex process, as represented by the four strands of research that we have decided to pursue: interaction with the environment; neural networks and deep learning; medicine; language. It must therefore be anticipated, managed and shared. Combining the best academic resources to make Milan a pole of excellence is not only a duty we have towards our city, but also for the growth of the country and its university system, increasingly called to operate according to a logic of interaction and exchange. It is a call to which the Politecnico responds in a spirit of virtuous collaboration with the other universities - a winning model to be pursued in the name of Europe."

Four are proponents and scientific coordinators of the Unit, one for each University, who will direct the unit in rotation: Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi (Full Professor of Computer Science, State University of Milan, Nicola Gatti (Associate Professor of Computer Engineering, Polytechnic University of Milan), Gabriella Pasi (Full Professor of Computer Science, Bicocca University of Milan) and Riccardo Zecchina (Full Professor of Theoretical Physics, Bocconi University).
Andrea Celauro
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Barbara Orlando
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